Veterinary Professionals Respond to Hurricane Katrina, Reach Out to Colleagues

As rescue workers enter Louisiana and Mississippi , the magnitude of hurricane Katrina’s wreckage reverberates across the airwaves with stories about the sheer number of trapped, abandoned and sick animals. Veterinarians in Louisiana, Alabama , Mississippi , and Texas responded almost immediately to the need for shelter, medical care and professional placement for colleagues displaced by hurricane Katrina. And the ripple effect has been impressive with hundreds of offers to help. Ten states have offered varying degrees of assistance, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and volunteer lists continue to lengthen. Many states are pursuing ways to waive licensing fees for displaced veterinarians though nothing had been announced at press time. For ongoing news, the AVMA is publishing daily Disaster Reports and AAHA has launched a listserv to provide veterinary professionals with a venue for providing and locating employment and rescue help where needed.

As of Sept. 7, 2005, volunteers reported that hundreds of animals remained trapped in hospitals and shelters and many veterinary hospitals were still under water. Out of at least 100 hospitals in New Orleans, Rebecca Adcock, DVM, liaison between the Louisiana VMA (LVMA) and Louisiana State University (LSU), coordinator of local rescue and shelter efforts, did not know of any that did not sustain major damage and many were, “a total loss.” Many veterinarians who remain in the region are stationed at the Lamar Dixon airport and have seen about 800 animals since evacuees began pouring in, according to Sharon Granskog, AVMA representative.

In Mississippi , Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams deployed by the AVMA in connection with FEMA reported at least 50 damaged facilities and many decimated areas. In some cases, teams were unable to find where clinics once stood, Granskog said. Once teams complete field inspections they will begin construction on a field hospital, she added.

Actions Taken

Nationally, VMAT teams have inspected areas in Louisiana , Mississippi , and Florida , the American Humane Society is providing help in Louisiana , and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is coordinating volunteer efforts and financial support. AAHA is acting as a liaison between members, encouraging grass roots efforts to help members in need, and supports the LVMA, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), and the Mississippi VMA in their ongoing efforts to coordinate donations. Donations to the Mississippi VMA can be sent to 209 S. Lafayette St., Suite 1101, Starkville, MS 39759 or call 662-324-9380.

Locally in Louisiana, joint efforts between the LVMA, LSU and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have provided accommodation for hundreds of displaced animals. In Texas , where thousands of displaced people and animals have been sent, the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has set up shelters and coordinated lists of veterinary volunteers and the TVMA has set-up a professional matching service that links displaced veterinarians with open clinics. Two days after launching the service, 75 clinics had posted employment opportunities. Elbert Hutchins, TVMA executive director, is working with the state licensing board to expedite licensing requirements and Pfizer Animal Health has agreed to pay the $225 licensing fee for the first 100 veterinarians who participate in the program in the next 90 days. Many local veterinarians have offered discounted services and shelter for animals.